Category Archives: Student Trip Reports (archived)

Kalasin Day 1

In Kalasin, on Saturday the 19th of May, we attended the traditional welcome ceremony conducted for visitors. The ceremony was particularly momentous due to our group being the first western visitors to come to the village in which we’re staying and be a part of the ceremony. It was overwhelming to be the subject of such attention, and to realize the extent to which our visit is an honor to the community. Receiving visitors in the U.S. is enjoyable and a compliment to both one’s self and one’s home, but in Thai culture and this relatively small community, hosting visitors holds far greater social significance.

Our arrival in Kalasin was the first time that many of us felt that we were in a completely different culture with different values and experiences. Arriving at the village was overwhelming. Before the trip we had been warned that our presence would attract attention but we didn’t know what that meant until arriving. We were greeted by the entire village waiting for us with fresh flower necklaces and were quickly rushed to the center of the crowd for the welcoming ceremony.

The ceremony itself consisted of a man acting as a monk representative performing  Buddhist incantations in ­Pali, an ancient language reserved for use in religious ceremonies. A central component of the ceremony was a white string passed around the most inner circle which we grasped between our thumbs. Even without great depth of knowledge of the significance of each component, we felt the emotional and spiritual significance of the process deeply.

After the incantations and group ceremony had finished, all the villagers were given a bundle of white strings to walk around and tie onto our wrists to symbolize blessings and welcoming us to Thailand. Each villager had their own style of giving a blessing. Some were serious, some shy, some were even silly and joking around with each other. Even with the formality of the ceremony, we were met with an introduction to the unwavering kindness of Thai people.

Initial Impressions Ban Toon Ting School

By Emily Halliday and Naomi Shapiro

After a four-hour van ride from Chiang Mai, all 29 of us hopped in the back of back of four-wheel drive pickup trucks for the last 45 minutes up the muddy, potholed, mountain road.  Upon arriving, Han and Peter mentioned how much the school has changed since their first trip here, 5 years ago. Many new buildings, such as the girl’s dormitory, have been built, and new roofing has been installed on many of the classrooms. Since this is Westminster students’ last year here, we were told to think about what we expected the school to be like. In reality, it was much better than many of us would have thought. The school looked to be in good shape and because of that a lot of us were unsure about what work we would actually be able to do there. The digs were very comfortable.  We all slept in dormitory like quarters which we called the “Gum Drop Villages”, because it was two large rooms with gum drop looking bug nets over all of the beds.  We were very excited to get settled in for our next 5 days at the school.

Gumdrop Village

In order to accommodate families living in more remote areas, Ban Toon Ting School is pretty isolated.  Although the school’s location is designed to serve the largest number of people possible, accessibility is still an issue because there isn’t organized transportation for the students.  Those who live the farthest away board at the school during the week, but others make the journey there and back each day.  One afternoon while we were staying at Ban Toon Ting, we walked with the kids to one of the villages that the school serves (about 1.5 miles away).  Just like in the U.S., once the bell marking the end of school rings, a mass of kids head for home.  A few get picked up by parents or siblings on motorbikes, but most are part of the horde walking.  All of the students were between kindergarten and 6th grade.  I was a little bit surprised by how small some of them looked.  They seemed far too young to be walking by themselves, but then I realized that the older kids were all looking out for the little ones.  As we walked with them, I was grabbed by the hand by a pair of second graders.  We picked flowers and jumped in puddles as we made the trek to the village.  As we passed different houses, kids peeled off and waved goodbye.  It was kind of like a big walking school bus.

Ban Toon Ting

 

HIV/AIDS Hospice

Lop Buri: HIV/AIDS Hospice

By: Kaycee Gilson & Hailey Muilenburg

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•HIV and AIDS•

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that causes destruction of the body’s immune system and defenses. If left untreated, HIV can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV. HIV/AIDS can not be cured but there are treatments to prolong life and provide comfort. HIV compromises immunity and ability to fight infections which may lead to terminal infections and cancers. HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breastmilk. Common routes include vertical transmission (mother to infant) and horizontal transmission (sex between partners and IV drug use). Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is used to treat an infection but it cannot cure the patient of the virus. These drugs are often very costly and have many negative side effects. Efforts like this facility strive to prevent the spread of HIV by educating the public and reducing the stigma surrounding the illness.

•Purpose•

The HIV/AIDS hospice provides a safe community and environment for those with HIV/AIDS. The center serves to improve the patient’s physical, social, and spiritual needs. The center also aims to educate, raise awareness, and decrease stigma about HIV/AIDS.

•Museum•

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The first part of the tour was to the HIV/AIDS hospice museum. Fourteen donated human bodies occupied this space, ranging in age from childhood to adulthood. The museum contained ashes of over 10,000 individuals with HIV/AIDS. The ashes in the museum are a final resting place for individuals whose families refused them. The oldest of the remains are 20 years old. The bodies have been donated by the individuals to serve as a source of education and awareness. The museum housed mostly male and transgender individuals, but also included women and children. Prior to ART there were 1 to 2 deaths per day. Since the induction of ART, there are 1 to 2 deaths per month. Overall, the clinic has seen a decline in the number of individuals passing away with HIV/AIDS, but also a reduction in the number of new admits. The main focus of this museum was to provide education and awareness about HIV/AIDS.

•Clinic•

This hospice center has a maximum capacity of 150 people.  It is currently hosting 144 people. The center is divided into six sectors: male, female, family, end-stage AIDS, volunteer, and monk. The clinic covers all medical care including transportation and ARTs. There is one nurse and one doctor on staff. The patients receive weekly visits from the physician that resides in Bangkok. All other patient needs are taken care of by volunteers. If the hospice reaches capacity there is often a waitlist for those new admits. Individuals may be admitted by family that is unable or unwilling to provide care or if they are unable to provide care for themselves.

•Our Thoughts•

There is a lot of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, which is largely contributed to lack of education and cultural beliefs. The AIDS hospice provides a community free of social stigma and judgement that allows for collaboration among a select population. The patients did not seem “put off” by their location, but rather the status of their situation. The facility was kept clean and the patients seemed to be well cared for. The museum brought a lot of emotions to the surface of the students and created a very powerful statement about the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. A facility such as this one would not be possible in the United States: medical expenses would not be covered by the government and the facility would not be open for the public to tour.

HIV/AIDS Hospice 

By: Lacy Carter & Chloe Withers

Before coming on the Mayterm Thailand trip Lacy and I wrote a blog post on HIV/AIDS in Thailand so we felt well prepared for our visit to the HIV/AIDS Hospice. Little did we know what an emotional impact it would have on the both of us. Thailand is known as the “land of smiles” and the hospice was no exception. When we first walked into the treatment room all of the patients were so welcoming. It was incredible to see that even though these people were in pain and didn’t feel good, they could still manage to have a positive outlook on life. Everyone was so willing to share their stories with us. Continue reading HIV/AIDS Hospice 

Parade Day

By:  Joe Caesar & Cera Cantu

Preparation for the parade started early in the morning around 6. The theme of the day was patience. We had to wait to be called for makeup and hair to be done by some of the villagers. Once we were dressed we had to wait for the parade. All of us crowded into a house in the village to get our makeup done. There were village children there that wanted to play with us. They stole a lot of cellphones and took a lot of pictures. When we got our phones back we all had hundreds of pictures of the kids and all of us that the kids had taken. Continue reading Parade Day

Reflections on Ban Toong Ting

By: Olivia Start & Dagny Helander

Thai and English: two completely different languages with two completely different manuscripts. Despite the barrier, we discovered that no matter what language you speak, you can build bonds and relationships with nearly anyone. Upon arrival we expected to be greeted without hesitation or reservations from the students. As it turns out, not only were many of us out of our comfort zone, but the students were as well. That led to a dramatic increase in the difficulty of forming connections. It appeared that the kids were absolutely terrified of us and some of our group even thought they were disrespectful. However, the two of us among other students quickly learned that if there’s a will to get to know the kids, there is a way. Continue reading Reflections on Ban Toong Ting

Health clinics at Ban Toong Ting School

By: Nicole Roberts & James Bacigalupo

Along with the service projects at the Ban Toong Ting school, we were also able to help aid the Thai Nursing students with health checks. Health checks are extremely important, especially when done on the children of an area because they can tell a lot about the overall health of the community. Two of the most important areas of health to check are height and weight. Abnormal height or weight for a child can determine a great majority of health issues in a community. While helping the nursing students, we assisted in taking the height and weight of every student at the school. We then proceeded to check the body for scrapes or abrasions, or anything abnormal with physical features. Next, we would asses any of the scrapes or abnormal physical features and clean them up. Continue reading Health clinics at Ban Toong Ting School

Ban Toong Ting School

By: Rachel Wong and Liz Behrens

Upon arrival at the Ban Toong Ting school, the group had been briefed about the possible conditions of the school and surrounding village. We were prepared for anything! However, after a bumpy ride in the back of a pickup truck through the lush green mountains, we stumbled upon our home for the next five days, and we were shocked.  Not only was the school absolutely beautiful, being isolated on the top of a mountain, the conditions were far better than initially anticipated.  We were warmly welcomed by the students and teachers. Continue reading Ban Toong Ting School

Temple visits

By: Karsten Gillwald & Melody Van De Graff

Thais perform Buddhist worship at various holy sites throughout the country. We visited several of these sites ranging from traditional “wats” to simple worship sites.  A wat is a monastery or temple in Southeast Asia. All temples have a representation of the Thai Buddha in one of the seven positions (?), an open area in front of the Buddha for worship, offerings to the Buddha and some other form of decoration. Some temples had little more than this, while others were incredibly ornate and complex. Continue reading Temple visits